5.2.4 Nudity

Part: 
Two
Chapter: 
5

We pause only briefly to mention the problem of mere nudity. None of us think that the human body or its portrayal is harmful. But we all agree that this statement is somewhat of an oversimplification. There may be instances in which portrayals of nudity in an undeniably sexual context, even if there is no suggestion of sexual activity, will generate many of the same issues discussed in the previous section. There are legitimate questions about when and how children should be exposed to nudity, legitimate questions about public portrayals of nudity, and legitimate questions about when "mere" nudity stops being "mere" nudity and has such clear connotations of sexual activity that it ought at least to be analyzed according to the same factors that we discuss with respect to sexually explicit materials containing neither violence nor degradation.

In this respect nudity without force, coercion, sexual activity, violence, or degradation, but with a definite provocative element, represents a wide category of materials. At the least explicit end of the spectrum, we could envision aesthetically posed, airbrushed photographs of beautiful men or women in a provocative context. The provocation derives from the power of sex to attract the attentions and stir the passions of all of us. Such materials may have, in most uses, little negative effect on individuals, families, or society. But at the other end of the continuum, we see materials specifically designed to maximize the sexual impact by the nature of the pose, the caption, the seductive appearance, and the setting in which the model is placed. For example, consider a woman shown in a reclining position with genitals displayed, wearing only red feathers and high heeled shoes, holding a gun and accompanied by a caption offering a direct invitation to sexual activity. With respect to such more explicit materials, we were unable to reach complete agreement. We are all concerned about the impact of such material on children, on attitudes towards women, on the relationship between the sexes, and on attitudes towards sex in general; but the extent of the harms was the subject of some difference of opinion.

None of us, of course, finds harmful the use of nudity in art and for plainly educational purposes. Similarly, we all believe that in some circumstances the portrayal of nudity may be undesirable. It is therefore impossible to draw universal conclusions about all depictions of nudity under all conditions. But by and large we do not find the nudity that does not fit within any of the previous categories to be much cause for concern.